An Islamic State (Isis) suicide bomber attacked a crowd inside a shrine in southern Pakistan on Thursday (16 February), killing at least 72 people in the deadliest attack the country has seen in more than two years.

Pakistan
Pakistani security personnel deploy outside the shrine of 13th century Muslim Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a day after the attackAsif Hassan/AFP

The attacker entered the main hall of the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan and detonated the bomb amid dozens of worshippers. The attacker targeted the women's wing of the shrine and 30 of the 70 who died were children. Senior police officer Shabbir Sethar told Reuters from a local hospital that the death toll was likely to rise. Isis, which has a small but increasingly prominent presence in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, the group's affiliated news agency AMAQ reported.

75 killed in Sufi shrine suicide attack in Pakistan Reuters

Raja Somro, who witnessed the attack, told a local TV network that hundreds of people were performing a spiritual dance known as the Dhamal when the bomber struck. "I saw bodies everywhere. I saw bodies of women and children," he said.

Pakistan
Debris lies on the ground as Pakistani soldiers cordon off the shrine of Lal Shahbaz QalandarYousuf Nagori/AFP
Pakistan
A Pakistani devotees sits on the blood-stained floor the day after the attackAsif Hassan/AFP

A three-day mourning against the terrorist act will be observed across Sindh, and the national flag will remain at half-mast. The other provinces' Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan governments have also announced a day of mourning.

On Friday (17 February), a shrine worker played the drum as part of tradition to open the shrine for devotees early morning. Police and personnel from other law enforcement agencies stood guard outside the shrine which was closed for devotees after the blast.

Pakistan
A baby's bottle lies on the blood stained floor as Pakistani security personnel guard the shrineAsit Kumar/AFP
Pakistan
A policeman walks past a pile of shoes left by devotees after the blastAkhtar Soomro/Reuters
Pakistan
An injured man sits on a bed at a local hospital in the town of SehwanAsif Hassan/AFP
Pakistan
A man tends to his daughter, who was injured in the attack, at a local hospital in the town of SehwanAsif Hassan/AFP
Pakistan
A volunteer covers the bodies of blast victims at the corridor of a local hospital in the town of SehwanYousuf Nagori/AFP
Pakistan
A Pakistani devotee covered with blood, sits next to the body of a victim at a local hospital in the town of SehwanYousuf Nagori/AFP
Pakistan
Relatives mourn over the coffin of a 13-year-old victim of the blast, during his funeral in the town of Sehwan, Sindh provinceAsif Hassan/AFP
Pakistan
Relatives hold a funeral for blast victims in the town of SehwanAsif Hassan/AFP
Pakistan
Pakistani soldiers stand guard at the entrance of a local hospital in the town of SehwanAsif Hassan/AFP
Pakistan
A man mourns the death of a relative who was killedAkhtar Soomro/Reuters
Pakistan
Security officials stand by as devotees gather outside the closed gate of the shrineAsif Hassan/AFP
Pakistan
Devotees gather outside the closed gate of the shrine one day after the attackAsif Hassan/AFP

Pakistani officials say security forces killed at least 39 suspected militants in countrywide operations following the attack. Officials say the overnight raids also led to the arrest of 47 suspects, including some in Sindh province where the attack on the shrine happened the previous day. Shortly after the blast, the army announced it was closing the border with Afghanistan with immediate effect for security reasons. Insurgents operate on either side of the neighbours' long and porous frontier.

Pakistan
Volunteers carry the body of a suspected militant killed in a overnight raid on their hideouts by security forces, at a hospital in KarachiRizwan Tabassum/AFP
Pakistan
Volunteers stand beside the bodies of suspected militants who were killed in a overnight raid on their hideouts by security forces, as they lie in a mortuary at a hospital in KarachiRizwan Tabassum/AFP
Pakistan
volunteers stand beside the bodies of suspected militants who were killed in a overnight raid on their hideouts by security forces, as they lie in a mortuary at a hospital in KarachiRizwan Tabassum/AFP